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Saturday, September 2, 2017

the good at heart by Ursula Werner

The Good at Heart: A Novel

I've been reading many stories set with a WWI and II background but this one is from a different perspective altogether. We hear of the persecuted and the persecutors but this is from a civilian German outlook, forced to live their lives under Hitler and for some members of the family only beginning to realize what was actually happening much later on in the day and then the utter horror of knowing that their men folk knew, understood and followed orders in the persecution of their fellow neighbours and others.

The story resulted as the author herself discovered papers regarding her great grandfather and this piqued her interest. This story is based on a family now living on the border to Switzerland, just because they wanted to escape the bombings of Berlin. Whilst Edith the mother was blindly believing in whatever the media turned out, her daughter, her adopted son and a pastor of the village knew otherwise. Clandestinely helping out sending Jews to the other side Marina and Johannes needed not to be the focus of attention. This was not to be. It is also ironic that it is children who on the one hand played games of make believe like all children would, believing that the enemy would come over and spy on them and kill them all would endanger an operation which would lead to disaster.

The arrival of the Fuhrer in this little picturesque village sets off a series of events including an attempted assassination which goes awry leading to arrests and immediate execution and a general uproar in the village.

For me the highlight of this story was the gradual awakening in Edith (the matriarch) mind that her husband too was part of the atrocities that took place and this was something she could never imagine. For her, her husband was a good man and that he could be responsible for such things was beyond her imagination, belief or understanding. She naively believed that the Jews were sent on trains for resettlement and that her neighbours and good friends were now happily setting up home elsewhere. The horror of the whole Holocaust hit her later.

The story was a mixed saga of War, family and the need for survival amongst a great many risks. That fathers would give up their lives even for the sake of family is very well outlined in this story. It must be one that would be replicated in hundreds of homes in Germany of that era. It must also be a very hard legacy to live with.

A very moving story.


  1. I've read one other book from that perspective - Skeletons at the Feast - and loved it so I'll have to look for this.

  2. Great review. Sounds like a good book.

  3. I enjoy books set during this time, Mystica. Thanks for calling attention to one that might have slipped by me.